The following is a very brief excerpt from my book, “This is Not That” due to be completed in 2048, based on the current pace. Let me know what you think.
“In a rather complicated study, Professor D.B. Fenker and his colleagues (2005) had subjects view a series of emotionally neutral words on a computer screen. Randomly, some words were preceded by pictures of fearful faces or other disturbing images. The exposure to these images, however, was so quick that the individual was not aware that they had even seen the image, referred to popularly as subliminal images. Participants were later shown lists of words and asked to say whether they recalled seeing a word (had a conscious memory of learning it) or knew they had seen the word (they knew they had seen it before but couldn’t remember where or when). The researchers found that when words were preceded by a frightening or unpleasant image, they were more accurately recognized, though not consciously recalled.
The implications of this study, and others like it, are momentous. If the brain is so sensitive to negative stimulation as to react in such a powerful way to such an insignificant trigger, imagine its reaction to much more salient triggers. Imagine what the brain does with experiences of abuse, neglect, estrangement, humiliation, and other forms of danger. An understanding of this sensitivity is crucial when attempting to navigate and deconstruct neural networks that are formed by our experiences, networks that predict and influence our behavior. This is why so many people are bewildered by their emotional and behavioral struggles. They cannot consciously recall many of the events that have led to those struggles and therefore seem to have no cause to explain the effect.